Lorenzo Scarpone grew up on a farm and vineyard in Guardia Vomano, a small town in the Abruzzo region of Italy, not far from the Adriatic Sea. Lorenzo's father was renowned as the best local pork butcher, and his mother as one of the best cooks. The family was also noted for their wine, produced from the local Montepulciano and Trebbiano grapes. Lorenzo knew first-hand the importance of "terrior", the crucial role played by growing specific grape varieties in particular soils and exposures, to produce wines of real personality and individuality.
The Abruzzo has always been noted for producing some of the best chefs in Italian and international restaurants. As a teenager, Lorenzo studied at the Abruzzo's most prestigious Hotel-Restaurant School in nearby Giulianova, and upon graduation he opened his own seafood restaurant on the Adriatic coast. Anxious to experience the wider world, Lorenzo became a sommelier for the Sea Goddess cruise line. To perfect his English, he worked for a year in London at the finest Italian restaurants in the city.
Enamored of San Francisco from his seafaring days, Lorenzo moved here to work as manager and sommelier at Donatello Restaurant, which was spearheading the local revival of authentic regional Italian food and wine. With his experience of all the great wines of the world, Lorenzo became convinced that there was a market for the great but little-known wines of his and other Italian localities. In 1990, he founded Villa Italia to bring such wines to the United States. Beginning with just a few wineries, it now represents over 40 Italian producers throughout the U.S.
While Lorenzo's business was growing, so was his family. He married his wife Elizabeth Hayward in both San Francisco and Guardia Vomano. They purchased a small vineyard and olive grove overlooking their hometown, and spend summer vacations there with their three children and extended family.
Because of his background, Lorenzo always had a passion for the food products and wines produced by small local growers, who were in danger of being wiped out by larger commercial interests. He became involved with the founders of Italy's Slow Food movement, which championed the cause of these artisan producers. In the same year he founded Villa Italia, Lorenzo founded and still heads the San Francisco convivium of Slow Food, which has now become the leading international advocacy group for biodiversity, sustainable agriculture and support of small artisan producers of food and wine.
In conjunction with Slow Food USA, Lorenzo has sponsored Golden Glass tastings of Italian wines from 2004 to the present. He has also been active in local health and wellness projects. In 2009 he organized the successful Sustain Abruzzo campaign to support rural farmer and artisan food producers whose livelihood was severely affected by the devastating Abruzzo earthquake.
Lorenzo and his extended family remain committed to the enduring food and wine traditions of the Abruzzo and of all Italy. To share this legacy has always been the prime motive of Villa Italia.